Washington D.C. and its surrounding areas do not suffer as much risk for direct hits from hurricanes as other parts of the Atlantic seaboard, for which residents are thankful. However, we still encounter the effects of powerful storms making their way up the coast. Homes may be subject to heavy rains, high winds, hail, and other severe weather effects from the outer reaches of the hurricane or the remnants of a weakened, but still dangerous, storm.
Moreover, tropical storms are not the only weather events that pound DMV homes. Spring and summer storms can be just as powerful, nor’easters can wreak havoc while working their way down the coast, and winter storms can produce high winds as well as snow. Homeowners must be prepared for anything Mother Nature throws at them. Taking precautions before and during a storm, and then following up after the wind dies down, can mitigate the damage and its resulting costs. Below is a quick home maintenance checklist to help you prepare your property for severe weather.
Before the Storm
Unless a violent thunderstorm suddenly develops, most likely you will know when a tropical storm, winter storm, or nor’easter is on its way. Warning signs will give you time to prepare your home for the event. These are some steps you should take:
- Prepare your home’s exterior: During extremely windy conditions, objects can either fly off your home or into it, or a gust can tear off parts of your house (such as shingles or gutters). First, prepare for this wind by looking at your roof. Carefully remove any antennas or unsecured satellite dishes. If your roof has turbines, take those off and cover the holes to prevent rain from pouring in. Next, if your home has window shutters, make sure they are closed. If a nasty wind is anticipated, in the absence of shutters, cover the windows with plywood. Finally, clear out debris from gutters so heavy rain has some place to drain.
- Prepare the rest of your property: Since the objects around your house can become missiles in a tempest, secure loose items before the storm begins. Move patio furniture inside, put tools away, and tie down anything too big to move. Also, consider trimming back large tree branches to prevent wind from catching them and snapping a branch—or snapping the entire tree—which could then fall onto your house.
- Insurance concerns: You should know the coverage limits of your homeowner’s insurance if a storm hits. For example, if a tree does blow down, your insurance might not cover the cost of having it sawed up and removed, which is not a cheap job. Review your policy and call your agent before the first raindrop falls. Keep handy your policy number and important phone numbers so you aren’t scrambling to find them after the storm passes.
- Stay safe! Protecting your home and property is important, but it pales in comparison to protecting yourself and your family. Stay indoors during the storm unless you are directed to evacuate. If you forgot to take down the patio umbrella after the wind kicks up, don’t risk injury by going out into the storm to secure it. The umbrella can be replaced but you can’t.
After the Storm
The storm will pass, and with any luck, your home will come away unscathed. If not, this is some advice for dealing with the aftermath.
- Recovery: Once the wind dies down, walk around your property to assess any damage. Find out how your home’s exterior held up, and check for loose shingles in your yard and driveway. If something is damaged and needs immediate attention (like a broken window), repair it as well as you can in the short term, and don’t forget to inspect your detached garage as well.
- Insurance reporting: If you see any damage, call your insurance agent and maybe the home office for guidance. The insurer may want to send out an adjuster to look at the damage, but also the insurer could direct you to take care of the repairs on your own. Be as detailed as possible when speaking to your insurer; ask plenty of questions, take good notes, and save all receipts on repairs, including the materials you buy for minor repairs.
- Beware of scammers: Alas, unscrupulous contractors may knock on your door after a storm, offering to help with repairs. Some of these jerks do their homework by tracking areas that suffered the most damage, then hitting those neighborhoods and preying on homeowners still frazzled from the storm.Always contact any contractors yourself after a weather event rather than letting them come to you.
- Roof inspection: Once the chaos of severe weather has abated, consider contacting a professional roofing expert to inspect the top of your home. You may not realize that shingles blew off during the storm, or that hail caused more damage than is visible from the ground. A professional roofer can identify problems and make repairs, if necessary, so you will be ready once the next storm rolls in.